‘Decision on Minimum Wages Act cannot be reconsidered’

Chief Secretary K.S. Sripathi inaugurating the 118th annual general meeting of Nilgiris Planters Association at Kotagiri on Saturday. —   | Photo Credit: Photo: D. Radhakrishnan

Special Correspondent

It is up to the planters to evolve ways to implement the Act

UDHAGAMANDALAM: The government cannot reconsider its decision to extend the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act to the plantation sector, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, K.S. Sripathi, said while inaugurating the 118th Annual General Meeting of the Nilgiris Planters Association (NPA) at Sakthimalai in Kotagiri on Saturday.

He said that it was a policy decision and had also passed through various legal forums. Stating that it is up to the planters to evolve ways to implement the Act, he said that the government has to ‘step in’ for both the management and the workers.

Urging the producers to get the best output from their workers, he said the focus of the producers should be on the quality and productivity.

Pointing out that the land has become a scarce commodity both in cities as well as in the hills, Mr. Sripathi said, "it is high time we think in terms of modernising the activities". He also said that time has come for the planters to think of value addition, and that interest in organic tea is growing.

Though the Nilgiris district and tea have become synonymous, it is still no match for the best in the World, he said adding that the producers must raise their goals.

He said that the possibility of making by-products should be explored by agencies like the NPA. Pointing out that things are looking up on the tea front now, he exhorted the producers to set aside, ‘funds for a rainy day’.

He also underscored the need to protect the environment and ecology. The Chairman, NPA, K.T. Harsha said that though the industrial relationsis peaceful, "the new wage regime, not fixed by negotiation between the association and the representative trade unions of workers, as had been the practice for decades together, but fixed by the State Government under the Minimum Wages Act, in June 2008 has been a source of serious concern".

Mechanical fixation of minimum wages makes it difficult for the employers to face the challenges and obstacles of a highly competitive market. He urged the State government to have a re-look at the minimum wages, particularly the rate of D.A.

Pointing out that production has registered a falling trend at all levels during 2009, Mr. Harsha said that the shortfall has substantially moved up the prices of plantation commodities. It has come as a much needed respite to the tea industry, which had been in the grip of a decade long crisis. However, the present tea prices may not last long.

He said that the NPA’s application for registration of its logo under the Trade Marks Act is in its final stages. He urged the Tea Board to complete the formalities relating to the use of the Nilgiris Orthodox Geographical Indication logo. The presentation of a cheque for rupees five lakhs by Stanes Amalgamated and Southern Tea Farms to the NPA Polytechnic Fund marked the occasion.

Mr. Sripathi handed over the cheque to the Correspondent, NPA Centenary Polytechnic College G.T.S. Pandiaraj. Among those present was the Nilgiris Collector Anandrao V. Patil. The Vice-Chairman, NPA Jiten Pareek proposed a vote of thanks.